Mary and The Witch's Flower: Film Review
Cast: Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent, Ruby Barnhill
Director:Hiromasa "Maro" Yonebayashi
Likely to appeal to those who felt Harry Potter was too male-led, Mary and The Witch's Flower's the first film from the Japanese Studio Ponoc.
It's the story of Mary, a young girl who's finding life in the countryside a little dull while she waits for her parents to move across to be with her. On the cusp of starting school, one day Mary heads into the nearby woods following a cat - despite her great aunt Mary's insistence on staying away from the woods.
Finding some strange flowers and a broomstick that comes to life, Mary is whisked above the clouds to a magical school, Endor College, where she's welcomed as the latest witch apprentice.
But Mary's flower discovery puts her in peril and at odds with those running the college - as well as discovering a threat to all life.
It's fair to say that Mary and The Witch's Flower wears its Potter influence deep on its sleeve.
Whilst it may lack some of the warmth and emotion of the Potter series (there's not as much heart on display here sadly), the central story of Mary, with her outcast red hair and quirky ways, will give some girls a heroine they need.
However, Mary's prone to pratfalls, to mess ups and to bursting into tears which weakens the argument a little and disappoints.
In terms of the animation it's perfectly fine, but for a new studio, it unfortunately lacks the wow factor to help them set out their stall with their debut feature.
The backdrops are nicely painted and tend to fade into the background rather than stand out, and while there are some well-executed set pieces, there's little which truly jumps from the screen.
If anything, the copy of the Hogwarts style school is solidly executed - from a menagerie of creatures and critters to a Scottish groundskeeper, there's a lot here that feels familiar. And, because of that, it's a shame as Mary and The Witch's Flower has some real potential to cast some magic.
As it is, it's a fairly enchanting sort of tale for 90 minutes, but its bucolic edges and Potter-familiarity (as well as dashes of Howl's Moving Castle) prevent it from truly weaving a magic spell.